I was born and raised Roman Catholic. My grandmother even had a shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus in her closet. I remember seeing rosary beads everywhere in my grandmother’s room along with crucifixes and pictures of famous scenes from the Bible all throughout her apartment. My grandmother even believed every single word of the Bible as fact because, in her mind, they were the true words of God. They were not interpretations, nor stories, nor paraphrased events in time. The words in the Bible were 100% fact in her eyes -hypocrisies and all. And it was not for us to judge nor question the writings, nor interpret them in any way. It was for us to obey them, word for word.
Now, I have never read the Bible in its entirety. I have read certain passages that were assigned throughout my 12 years of religion classes in Catholic school and even discussed certain passages during Sunday school classes I attended with friends one summer at the First Korean Church of New Jersey (this was/is a Presbyterian church). Yet, somehow, as much as I truly appreciated my education with this type of formal religion, it still felt as though something was missing. I didn’t actively go searching for what that was, mind you. I simply acknowledged it and left it to the fact that we still have a lot to learn about God and our purpose here.
In college, it was the first time anyone actually questioned my religion based on my actions and said to me, “Are you sure you’re not Buddhist?” At that point, I was in my early-to-mid twenties and knew absolutely nothing about Buddhism. I knew it was a form of religion but… that was it. It was not something that ever entered my world. I may have searched for a definition later that evening but I left it at that. In my mind, I was a Roman Catholic. That religion felt right for me. I kept the basic morals that I was taught early on and followed through with them as best I could on a day-to-day. I had resolved that other religions had the same moral foundation as I, just taught differently, so why research anything or try to convert?
Here I am, more than 10 years after being accused of being a Buddhist and, upon reflection, I feel I have actually shed most of my Roman Catholic attachments. I still pray, and even call on the Lord, but that is only because that is the name I have retained to call on the life source that is the creator of all things. I use prayer now more as a guide, a way to focus myself and center my thoughts and emotions, versus calling out to someone for help. I find that letting go of the scripted word in the Bible has made me kinder, more thoughtful and more caring. Honestly, between the contradictions in the Bible and what I was taught about Catholicism, versus the Roman Catholic Church the “machine” I learned about later on in life, all of that “noise” was distracting and discouraging. Hard rules one day were no longer the ones to obey the next.
So, what’s the point to this blog post? Good question. Despite all of the disappointments, I tried to find the positive. It helped me to realize that holding tightly to the word-for-word teachings (of anything) means nothing. Actions and behaviors are what is key. And sometimes, you do have to let it all go to find the truest part of yourself. I no longer shy away from how I feel toward protecting animals – and that includes the worms or other insects I see on the ground and not only avoid stepping on them, but actually bring them over to a safe area. I also pick up dead or injured birds…yes I pick up dead birds. I call bird collision and they either help the bird if they can, or if it’s too late, they bring them to the museum so that the museum doesn’t have to kill any wild ones. So letting it all go helped me become more confident to follow my inner voice an to actually speak up without fear.
So don’t hold on too tightly to what you were taught. Allow yourself to learn something different. It might actually make you more devout to your true self. And that’s really what matters.